Alexei Moon Casselle
May 18, 2004
Before I begin my story, I need you to do me a favor. I need you to imagine the most humid, unbearable red-hot scorching bone-dry heat your purple brain can muster. Now imagine spending your entire summer in that heat- standing in a frail, yellow merchandise tent, trying to sell albums to tens of thousands of angst-ridden, under-developed teenagers smoking cigarettes, dancing in circles of fury creating windmills of pasty fists, fighting for a corporate-sponsored revolution.
That was my life, last summer on the Vans Warped Tour, which was an outdoors all day punk rock festival; A traveling circus that relocated to a new city every day, yet somehow remained in the same desolate parking lot, where insects go to die. I usually forgot we were in a different city than the day before and very little time passed before I no longer cared.
My job was to set up my special yellow tent and convince a percentage of the thousands of concert zombies to buy a rap album they hadn’t heard of, among millions of CDs more commercially viable.
Sometimes I would be outgoing and charismatic for my own amusement, other days I sat in my chair with my Top Gun aviator shades on, stone faced, while repetitive questions fired at me and bounced off my forehead. I was thinking of how many different ways I could end my disposable, meaningless existence.
After awhile, all the people looked the same to me. I knew what clothes they were going to be wearing; I knew the confused dirty look that would be on their rebellious, adolescent faces; I knew what they smelled like, how they talked, and the wild freedom in their eyes. I knew the dull look they wore at the end of the day as exhaustion settled over us all. I was exhaustion. I stayed in one place from sunrise to sunset on the same square of black tar or dirt or grass or black tar or dirt or grass or sand or volcanic ash.
The Warped Tour was larger than anything I had ever been a part of. Assembling this tour every day was like moving a small town and having it up and running within a couple hours. There were dozens of stages with multiple bands playing simultaneously and hundreds of merchants selling clothes, food, music, energy-drinks, water, beer, shoes, magazines, religion.
My bus (consisting of aerobic gurus: Mr. Dibbs, Murs, Slug, DJ J-Bird and myself) joined the Warped tour in Phoenix, Arizona. We had driven there nonstop from Minneapolis, thanks to our super-human bus driver named Loras, who didn’t seem to eat, sleep or have the need to perform the necessary bodily functions of normal people. Being that he was an ostrich and emu farmer from Kentucky, he was the last of a dying breed. We all got used to spilling out of our bunks and into the aisle while we slept, from violent turns he was making to keep our bus from plowing through the guard rail, sending us to our generic rock star deaths.
We arrived in Phoenix incredibly late. We were lost foreign exchange students trying to stay afloat in a carnival about the size of two football fields, all swarming with frantic questions and demands unanswered.
J-bird and I rushed off the bus, already behind schedule, as the others slept peacefully in bunks and aisles. I loaded my handcart with a huge collapsed yellow tent, a couple bullet-proof, over-sized blue plastic bins filled with pounds upon pounds upon boxes of music, and silver duffle bags screaming with t-shirts for sale and squirt guns for my own entertainment. We made our way through scattered crowds, cutting through thick bushes of tour flunkies, stoned before breakfast.
The air was filled with broken bursts of electric guitars and a steady hum of people pulsing all around us. We found where to set up, dumped the load and hurried back to the bus to grab the second half of our merch.
The day pushed on, and the grounds were now flooded with bodies swarming the area, hungry. I was on a chair, foaming at the mouth, shouting my sale like some stockmarketauctioneersubwaycarhustler, looking for any takers. The hard part was grabbing the attention of the MTV generation’s river of jaded eyes. The rest went by the numbers:
Me:“Hey, I got that shirt, too! Green Day kicks ass!
Them: This shirt is a joke. Green Day blows.
Me: I know, right?! Hey, you heard Atmosphere or Murs?
Them: Who's Atmursphere?
Me: No, At-mos-phere and Murs.
Them: Oh yeah, my sister downloaded one of Atmosphere's records. I don't like hip hop.
Me: Yeah its really dope! I'm surprised you haven't heard 'em, they're playing at the Maurice Stage at 3:00, you should check 'em out!
Them: 3:00? but Good Charlotte is playing at 2:45 at the Teal stage so I won't make it. You got any free stuff?
Me:Here's a sticker. Get outta here.
Mid-day. The sun crept over my head and sat heavily on my shoulders. I heard someone say it was 110 degrees. Numbers could never do that fire justice. I stood my ground for as long as I could, and then yelled into my walkie-talkie for back up. “Fuck This!” I ran into the nearest building, cooling my dizzy head. I felt sorry for the mobs that had paid buckets to bake in the sun, rationing out the remains of their wallet for over-priced bottled water and a CD of their new favorite band, solely as a token to prove they had survived.
With a fist full of money, puddles of sweat by my feet and day one under my belt, the sun began falling and the crowds fell thin. I started packing up. It would be dark soon. The winds were filled with mercy as if some higher power was taking pity on us all.
As J-bird and company began helping me take down the tent and pack up for the day, the winds began to pick up, which in return, signaled a recording inside my head: a sandstorm would be coming soon. Now, I have never seen a sandstorm, not even in a National Geographic. I don’t know if they’re caused by UFO’s landing in the desert, or if they even exist, but for some reason due to hours of exposure to extreme temperatures, I was completely convinced that we were about to be hit by one helluva sandstorm.
My pace was now frantic and absurd as I began ripping down my tent. I loaded my cart like I was on a game show, and ran through an obstacle course of meandering stage crews and groupies, blue plastic bins pouring over left and right from my handtruck, leaving a trail of paranoia behind me.
I yelled warnings of a sandstorm to the people I knocked over, so they understood why I was genuinely terrified. My friends were awaiting my return with the handcart to haul the rest of our burdens back to the bus. I never came back.
I reached the bus and dumped all the bins on the ground like dead bodies, and then raced on board as if the “sandstorm” was biting at my ankles. A stranger was on the bus and nobody else. I wanted Loras to tell me that everything was going to be alright.
I mumbled an attempt at “hello” to the strange girl and began tearing about the coolers and refrigerator looking for water. No water… just lunchmeat and bread, and this was no time for a sandwich.
I wandered to the back room of the bus and stripped down my underwear and socks, dripping with sweat. Naked and crazy, I came out to the front again, apologized to the strange girl for my appearance, then began looking for water in the same places I had moments ago, cursing under my breath.
When they found me, I was in the back, sitting on the floor, with my knees to my chest, rocking gently back and forth and rubbing my head. J-bird asked me if I was okay, to which I replied, “I only peed this much today,” holding my index finger and thumb about an inch apart.
More gibberish spilled from my cracked lips before I was persuaded into taking a cool shower. Speaking as carefully as one might in a hostage situation, they aimed me in the direction of the showers, and then dispersed into the bar-b-que, which was taking place around the neighboring buses.
Standing under the showerhead, I turned the handle and felt the cool water pour over my heat stained skin. I cleared every last person from the showers when I began making sweet, soft, orgasmic moans of ecstasy. That bothered people, apparently. That and the fact that I had not removed one article of clothing before taking the shower, not even my shoes.
I headed back to the bus, hungry. I was leaving a trail of liquid footprints and dripping from every angle of my body. It was night by this time, and the partying tour freaks watched in horror as a dark drenched figure lurched through the crowd, knocking over garbage cans unapologetically. People stopped talking, as the mysterious man loaded his plate with Chipotle burritos and chips without saying a word, just pointing at the food he desired.
I took the food and went back on the bus with a can of “official tour water.” I changed clothes, and then laid in my bunk. Someone asked me if I was alright and I didn’t respond. I was thinking about the other three weeks I had left…and this was no time for a sandwich.